Last Updated on 29.11.2022

Foot types. A phrase you probably haven’t thought much about until now. Then you heard about the barefoot shoes that turned everything upside down, right? Knowing your foot type is of course very important, because only by choosing the right barefoot shoe can you get the right fit.

Unfortunately, not all barefoot shoes are suitable for all foot types (which is also impossible as our feet are very different), so always take your time when buying to find a model that fits you well.

But our feet also have something in common. All human feet are widest at the tip of the toes. Unless, of course, they’ve been deformed by shoes and changed shape.

All of this may make it difficult to choose the right barefoot shoe, but this is usually just a beginner’s impression when they first encounter barefoot shoes.

Caution! Expect changes in the shape of your foot as you change footwear. Your feet will start to regain its natural shape, you will notice more toe spacing, your feet will become stronger and they will give better stability to your body. Sounds great, doesn’t it 🙂

1. Foot length and width

The length and width of the foot is the first piece of information you need when buying shoes. It is also usually the only information on the manufacturer’s website that helps us choose the right size, because, due to the wide variety of feet, different barefoot shoes are suitable for different foot widths.

You can get an approximate feeling of the width of your foot with the help of a tool published on the Slovak website: https://bosacik.sk/meranie

Instructions: enter your foot length and width in [cm] in the empty boxes and the calculation will show you which category you fall into.

NOTE: The calculation is only an approximation, so it is always advisable to visually assess the width of the foot by comparing it with different foot widths.

Length and width of the foot in [cm]

A detailed guide on how to measure feet you can read here.

How much space do you need in shoes you can read here.

The photo below shows examples of different foot widths, which can also be used to visually assess your foot width.

Is your foot not in the photo?
In the Barefoot Universe Academy you will find many examples of feet for all widths.

As you will see below, our feet vary in toe shape, length, width, foot shape and volume. But they all have one thing in common – all human feet are widest at the tip of the toes.

Unfortunately, modern feet are often deformed by the shoes we wear, so that they are often no longer widest across the toes, but across the ball of the foot.

With the use of barefoot shoes, the feet start to regain their natural shape. Don’t be afraid of this change. Healthy, functional feet are beautiful!

Do you also have hard or cracked skin on your soles like the person in the photo above?
Find the most common causes and solutions for hard and cracked skin on the soles of your feet in the Barefoot Universe Academy.

The photos below show examples of barefoot shoes suitable for narrower (left) and wider feet (right). Please note that some narrow models can also fit wide feet and vice versa. Also, not all models of one brand will necessarily fit you in the same way.

When choosing the right model of barefoot shoes, always bear in mind that wearing barefoot shoes allows your toes to spread, so choose a model that will have enough space at the toes even when you reach your full width and toe spacing.

Let’s also remember that even the narrowest barefoot shoes may feel wider than our normal shoes at the start, but that doesn’t mean they’re wide enough for us!

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Are you struggling with how to identify your foot width and length? How to know when a shoe is the right length and width? Then the Barefoot Universe Academy is for you!

In it you will find:

  • A number of foot examples to help you visually determine your foot width.
  • Answers why the length/width ratio is so important and why foot width/length information alone is not enough?
  • How to identify the appropriate length and width of a barefoot shoe for our foot type (with examples of inappropriate and appropriate fit)?
  • Specificities that apply to people with bunions (when to choose a narrower shoe from the width of your foot).
  • Why can wearing barefoot shoes that are too narrow be dangerous and why can we possibly do even more damage to our body than with non-barefoot shoes?
  • What does it mean to have a lot of room at the side of the toe? When is this ok and when it is not?
  • Why the foot in the air doesn’t have the same shape as the foot on the ground and why is this important?
  • The most common mistakes when choosing your first barefoot shoe.
  • When is it appropriate to determine the width/length of the shoe by comparing the width of the insoles and outsoles and when not?
  • What are the special considerations when selecting the appropriate shoe length and width?
  • What impact does the shape of the heel of the shoe have on the length available in the shoe?

2. Foot volume

Foot volume has an important influence on the fit of shoes, as it affects both the amount of space in the shoe and the proper fixation of the shoe during walking.

In general, the foot volume can be divided into three segments, which relate to:

  • Volume in toe area
  • Volume in the midfoot area
  • Volume in the instep area

2.1 Foot volume in toe area

When we talk about forefoot volume, this usually refers to the width and volume of the foot around the toes and metatarsals. We want to know how much room the shoe gives us in this place.

Forefoot volume is usually described by two quantities: the width of the foot and the circumference of the foot around the metatarsals.

Our foot circumference affects the available width in the shoe, because even if the shoe is wide enough, its circumference or volume may be too small or too large for us, because the circumference of the shoe does not match well the circumference of the foot.

Due to the complexity of describing the volume of the foot and the shoe, the fit of the shoe may also vary. You can find out how foot volume affects the fit of a shoe in the Barefoot Universe Academy.

In the Academy you will also find:

  • Why can’t two feet with the same width but different circumferences, always wear the same barefoot shoes?
  • How does the shape of the sole and the material of the shoe affect the volume available at the toes area? What are the limitations/advantages?
  • Why in some cases we can choose shoes that are narrower than our foot width? What happens to the shoe in this case, what do we need to pay attention to when choosing a size in these cases and which shoe models are these?

2.2 Foot volume in the midfoot area

Midfoot volume describes the volume of the part of the foot between the toes and the instep.

How the volume in the midfoot affects the fit of the shoe and which shoe models can cause problems is shown in the Barefoot Universe Academy.

2.3 Foot volume in the instep area

The volume of the foot in the instep area is usually described by the height of the instep and the width of the foot in this area (sometimes also by the circumference or arch measurement from floor to floor).

Different heights of the instep

The approximate height of the instep according to Šťastné nôžky can be obtained by calculating the ratio between the length of the arch over the instep (from ground to ground) and the length of the foot by dividing the arch measurement by the length measurement.

The value approximately determines the volume of the foot (height of the instep):
low instep: less than 0.7
normal instep: 0.71 – 0.78
high instep: 0.78 and more

NOTE: The result is only an approximation. Variations may occur if the foot is wide with a low instep or narrow with a higher instep.

Please also note that volume is not a one-dimensional value and always refers to how much space our feet take up in height and width. Which means that the height of a brace is not equal to the volume of the foot. In some cases this may be the same (a high instep also means a high volume), but this is not always the case.

2.4 How to recognize your foot volume?

In addition to comparing our feet to other feet, we can also determine our foot volume by observing the fit of a shoe and how well different shoe models fit. When comparing, we focus on the position of the laces and on slip-on models.

How to do this and examples of fit for different foot volumes can be found in the Barefoot Universe Academy.

In it you will find:

  • How do you know your foot volume by looking at the fit of your shoe?
  • Examples of different shoe fit for different foot volumes.
  • Tips on how to improve the fit of a shoe if it is not ideal?
  • Which shoe models should we be particularly careful with that they fit properly?

3. Shape of the toes

People have different toe shapes. Some people believe that the shape of our feet reveals our ancestry, while others argue that it can tell us something about our personality. What matters to us is how well the barefoot shoes fit our foot shape.

There is no official name for foot shapes. You may have heard of Greek, Egyptian, Roman, etc. foot types. Some people find these names a bit archaic, but as the names do not indicate the actual shape of the foot, they are also harder to remember, so we will not use them here.

In the photo below you can see the most common toe shapes.

Is your foot not in the photo?
The Barefoot Universe Academy has many examples of foot images for all foot shapes.

The shapes of the feet can be classified according to the photo above as follows:  

  1. STEEP SLOPE” (also known as Egyptian foot shape) – feet with the longest big toe with a stronger slope towards the little. You can draw a virtual straight line from your big toe to your pinky toe.
  2. GENTLE SLOPE” – the big toe is still the longest, but the slope is milder. The slope no longer falls in a straight line but in a curve.
  3. SQUARE” FEET – the slope becomes very gentle and is almost looks like a straight horizontal line. Toes are of similar length. Feet have square shaped form.
  4. “MOUNTAIN” FEET (also known as Greek foot shape) – second toe is the longest. Sometimes the difference in length between big toe and second toe is more visible and sometimes less. Three little toes slope towards the pinky toe, but usually not evenly (third toe is slightly longer)
  5. PLATEAU 2″ – first 2 toes are the same length, the other three toes usually slope evenly towards the little toe
  6. “PLATEAU 3” – first 3 toes are the same length, the other two toes usually slope evenly towards the little toe

Of course, there are even more variations of foot shapes, but I’ve only shown the most common ones here.

Shoes toe box shapes

Just as the shapes of the toes differ, so do the shapes of barefoot shoes, which have different toe box shapes. Some shoe designs have a stronger slope towards the pinky toe and are more suited to the foot shape (1), others have a more rounded or rectangualar toe box that better suits the type (2, 4, 5) or a more square foot (3, 6).

Different shoe shapes are suitable for different toe shapes and not all models are necessarily suitable for all toe shapes. Sometimes, even though there is enough room in front of the toes according to the tables, there may simply not be enough room for certain toes.

It’s important to make sure there’s enough room in the shoe for all your toes!

The photo below shows two examples of feet on different shoe designs. The Type 1 foot has more space in front of the smaller toes in both shoe models due to the steeper slope towards the pinky toe, while the Type 4 foot already lacks space for the third toe in the right shoe due to the steeper toe slope, of the shoe.

Want more?

The Barefoot Universe Academy gives you answers to questions such as:

  • Which shoe shapes are not suitable for our foot type?
  • Why we may not have enough space in the shoe despite having enough space in front of our toes?
  • What to do if there is too much space in front of the smaller toes when there is enough space for the big toe?
  • What if the slope of the shoe is too steep for our foot shape?

In the photos below you can check the toe box shapes of some barefoot brands. Please note that in some cases the toe box shape is more difficult to determine from the outside only (e.g. some winter and hiking boots and some children’s models with toe protection).

4. Foot shapes

4.1 Straight line or bean shape

Feet also vary in shape – some are more “straight”, others “bean-shaped”. Their shape is primarily influenced by their functionality, so not all foot shapes are functional foot shapes.

The toes of the functional foot should always be aligned in the direction of the metatarsals, and the foot should be in line with the ankles, knee and hips.

The bean-shaped foot represents the functional shape of the human foot in the correct position!

Find out how to achieve a functional foot shape and more in the Barefoot Universe Academy.

You will also learn about:

  • What is a functional foot?
  • What impact does our femur have on the foot?
  • What causes the pinky toe to rub against the edge of a barefoot shoe, even though we have chosen the correct width and shape of shoe?
  • Why does my foot rotate in the shoe/sandals?
  • Problems faced by people with overpronation in barefoot shoes and how to correct it?
  • Why is the “bean” shape the shape we want?
  • What can cause different foot lengths and how do we correct this?
  • Why do barefoot shoes need to be “bean-shaped” and what limitations/difficulties arise if they are not?

4.2 Fin shape or square shape

The human foot in its natural form is narrowest at the heel and widest at the toe. This foot has a ‘V’ or fin shape, which may be more or less pronounced.

The ratio of heel width to forefoot width also influences the final appearance of the foot. If the difference between the width of the forefoot and the width of the heel is greater, the feet will have a more pronounced fin shape than if the difference is smaller. With a smaller difference between the widths, the feet tend towards a squarer foot shape.

Examples of different foot shapes can be found in the Barefoot Universe Academy.

5. Barefoot shoes are a tool, not a magic wand

Healthy and functional feet are widest at the tip of the toes, the arch is formed, the big toe set back from the other toes and aligned towards the first metatarsal. The feet have the potential for adequate pronation and supination.

If your feet are not currently functional and natural shape, don’t worry.

By wearing barefoot shoes and working on the functionality of the feet and body, the shape of the feet changes to a healthier, natural and functional shape.

Barefoot shoes are therefore a great tool to help you achieve this (but they are not a magic wand!). Of course, if you choose a barefoot shoe that fits your foot length, width, shape and volume, and remember that changing shoes also requires working on the functionality of your whole body.

For all the latest information about which barefoot shoes suit the best to your foot type, follow us on our Instagram profile